This course introduces students to the ways theoretical frameworks have informed and shaped the types of arguments lawyers make, the kinds of opinions judges write, the sorts of regulations or statutes officials draft, and the ways we all think and talk about law. In short, what arguments persuade us (or fail to) and why? The course addresses this fundamental question in a series of practical contexts. For example, how might an adherent of the Chicago School approach to law and economics have decided Brown v. Bd. of Education? How might Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes or another legal realist have decided Bush v. Gore? Are there neutral principles of liberty and equality within traditional doctrine that can be transferred into cyberlaw and virtual worlds? Or do cyberlaw and virtual reality provoke an inquiry into the presumed neutrality of traditional doctrines and principles?
The course affords students an opportunity to learn theoretical frameworks for the practical purpose of considering such questions in depth. Thus, students become familiar with influential jurisprudential approaches in order to develop the practical skills of formulating, understanding, and critiquing legal argument and policy. The theoretical frameworks may include natural law and legal positivism, legal formalism and legal realism, neutral principles (or reasoned elaboration), law and economics, critical legal studies, public choice, feminist jurisprudence, law and political philosophy, and some approaches of people of color. When the course is offered as a 2-credit seminar, there will be limited enrollment and a required seminar paper.